The term army clientele describes the social class of legionaries and veterans who, towards the end of the Roman Republic, were in a special relationship of loyalty to a certain general whom they regarded as their patron . In return for the supply of farmland, they supported him politically and militarily.
In Roman society it had been for centuries common for the members of the nobility a patronage over proletarians and other members of the plebeian underclass exercised. They put them under their protection as clients , gave them material support or gave them help in court. In return, the clients were obliged to stand by their patron, for example in the annual elections for the Roman magistrate (→ Cursus honorum ).
With the army reform of Marius towards the end of the second century BC, this clientele relationship was transferred to the military: Gaius Marius was the first to accept dispossessed persons into the legions during the war against the Cimbri and Teutons . This increased the size of the army and made it more powerful, but raised the problem of caring for the veterans after they had finished their service: Since they could not release the disused soldiers into the social void from which they came, the army commanders now had to take them along after their release Supply farms.
Politically enforcing this was not easy, as the Senate often opposed this in order to prevent the generals from gaining too much power, whose clientele threatened to grow disproportionately if the settlement was successful. In the case of Pompey, for example, such a long-term blockade of the Senate could only be made possible by the First Triumvirate and the Consulate of Caesar in 59 BC. Be ended.
At the same time, the clientele relationship also swore the soldiers in a special way to their general. Because this was not only their military leader, but also the political guarantor of their pension. This personal loyalty, which was stronger than loyalty to the state as a whole, prolonged the civil wars of the 1st century BC, in which the republic fell, and was one of its central problems.
By transferring the command of all the troops stationed near the border to Augustus , the army clientele was finally monopolized and a military monarchy was established. In this respect, the army clientele played a central role, both in the fall of the Roman Republic and in the consolidation of the new monarchical order of the empire.